Keeping the Entrepreneurial Approach Alive for the Next Generation
Entrepreneurs are a rare breed. They are visionaries who exude both excitement and confidence in their ideas and their companies. In my career in business coaching, almost every entrepreneur I’ve worked with has a magnetism that can’t be faked—and that can rarely be replicated. As entrepreneurs move towards retirement (or, more likely, their next project), the challenge for the next generation of leadership is retaining the spirit of the trailblazers that came before them, and more importantly—the ability to “sell” the idea of the company and its products and services going forward. While the next generation of leaders may be incredibly talented, they can rarely match the style of the visionary that came before. The good news is, they don’t have to. Selling the vision of a company isn’t always easy, but it can be learned. Part of my business advisor services is to help the next generation of leaders pick up where the last left off. The following 7 steps will help new leaders keep old clients and find new ones. It’s called the “A CLIENT” model.
Assess the situation—this includes, assessing yourself, assessing the prospect and assessing the situation. Have the difficult conversation with the prospect about the potential roadblocks they see with making the decision to choose your company. What do they need and want? What is holding them back? Take emotions into account. This can take time. You rarely get clients overnight. Look for the things that aren’t black and white.
Find out what the prospect really wants. Dig below the surface to find the issues that they need to work through to start working with you. What does success look like to them? What is the payoff on the investment of their time and money to hire you? The faster you clarify, the smoother and clear the sales journey will be.
The sales process is a journey. Take the lead. Lead your prospective client through the steps of decision making. Don’t let the client or the process get lost. It’s your job to keep things on track, hitting all the right notes along the way. Instead of waiting for the prospect to tell you what’s holding them back, ask them. Be upfront and honest. It will go a long way towards building a relationship of trust and understanding.
Initiate a plan. How will you provide your products and services, and how will they help your prospect’s business? Be as clear as possible, as it will help ease whatever nervousness the prospect might have about making the deal. If you’ve already spoken to the prospect at length, and they are still wavering, initiate the tough conversation. What is stopping them from signing on? What would it take for them to feel comfortable with you and with your company? If you fail to initiate the tough conversation when it matters most, you may not get the chance again.
Every so often during the sales process, it’s important to stop and evaluate how things are going and determine where there are issues. If you identify issues that can be overcome, charge forward in a mindful manner with the prospect. If, however, you determine that the prospect is not likely to become a client—or that the effort you’ll need to convince them isn’t worth it—it’s time to move on. Too many leaders chase prospects that end up being a waste their time. This can be a tough determination to make, but one that must be made.
When you’re working to sign a prospect, make sure they are involved in the process and take responsibility as well. This will not only help you move the process along, but also establish the working relationship you’ll have with the client once they sign the deal. If you establish clear responsibilities for both you and the prospect, you won’t end up having to chase them around for an answer. Plan to speak or meet on a specific day and time. Lay out, in writing, the objections the client has, and your answers to those objections. Assigning responsibilities helps clarify the process and establish trust going forward, which brings us to…
Trust is the most important aspect of sales. You are asking a prospect to make a significant investment in both you and your company. It is a decision that will not be taken lightly, and the level of mutual trust you establish will be the key to success. Earn trust with the prospect the same way you would with an actual client. Say what you’ll do and follow through. Be responsive to their needs. Prove your worth. Trust is built over time, so patience is key. Once you have established trust with a prospect, you’re likely to enjoy a long and fruitful working relationship with them.
Entrepreneurs are one-of-a-kind people. But that doesn’t mean the business goes away when they do. There will never be another Steve Jobs, but Apple remains one of the largest and most well-respected companies in the world. Learning how to retain the vision of the leaders that came before is key to driving continued success after they’ve gone. The sales process is a great place to start.